Continuing our discussion on cold frame crops from our last post in the Year-Round Gardening Series today we will talk more about what to grow in the winter garden.
This post contains affiliate links, clicking on them will not cost you anything extra, but does allow Stoney Acres to make a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon Affiliate Program
5 More Cold Frame Crops
Carrots are one of the high lights of the cold frame crops. We always choose a smaller variety as they just don’t have as much time to develop. Little finger is a local favorite that we have used the last 8 years with great success. Little Finger Carrots only get about 4 or 5 inches long but seem to have the time to size up in the fall.
Most of the growing your carrots will do will be done by early November so you need to be sure to get them in and water them well in early August. Elliot Coleman calls winter carrots “candy carrots” you will understand why when you pull one from the cold frame in January and take a bite.
The cold causes the starches in the carrots to turn to sugars and they are fantastic!!! Some people question why I would take up space in the cold frame for carrots when you can just cover them up in the outside garden and accomplish the same thing. My response to that is they are so much easier to harvest from the cold frame because it is very rare that the ground actually freezes.
Most people are not familiar with this European green. Also, known as Corn Salad or Lamb’s Leaf, Mache is a great addition to late winter and spring salads. It has a nutty flavor and goes well mixed into a lettuce salad or as a stand-alone salad. The plants are pretty small so you need to plant a lot of them. Mache is truly a winter green, it actually won’t even germinate until the temperatures drop to the 60s. It is super hardy and can be a staple from the cold frame. We usually plant this in September in the shadow of other plants, as we harvest the lettuce and other greens the Mache then takes off. This is one of the few plants that will actually put on growth during the winter. (You can find seeds here – Affiliate Link)
This one is also known as miners lettuce and is native to California. The winter of 2011 was the first time we have grown this salad ingredient. It is supposed to be super winter hardy and it is another to of the very few plants that will continue to grow even when the sunlight drops under 10 hours. We liked the taste of claytonia but it’s not a big yielding plant. You would need to plant a lot of this for it to mean much. (Buy Claytonia seeds here – Affiliate Link)
Kale is super hardy, delicious, and very good for you. The biggest problem I have with kale is its size. It is pretty hard to fit a full-grown kale plant in a 12-inch high cold frame, although I have tried. If you plan on growing kale you will need to make room for it in a taller hoop house as the plants can get 2 to 3 feet high.
If you don’t have the space for it under protection plant some anyways outside in the garden. We have found kale lasts well into December even without protection. In fact last year we harvested some leaves as late as about January 10th. The outside leaves on the plant were gone but as we dug around the debris we were able to find a meal worth of leaves still growing strong under the snow.
The list of Cold Frame crops totals about 30 different crops. Included in the list are arugula, dandelion, escarole, mizuna, parsley, green onions and mustard, and turnip greens. Leeks and shallots can also be protected by a cold frame or hoop house and be harvested all winter.
We don’t have a lot of experience with most of these crops so I won’t drone on about them. We have tried arugula, parsley, and turnip greens and had decent success but we didn’t like them enough to continue to give them space in our cold frames. If you have had experience with any of these crops and would like to write to me about it I would love to feature your article as a guest post here on Stoney Acres.
Next time we will talk about when you should be planting
Would you like to learn more about year-round gardening? Well, the best place to get started is by taking our Year-Round Gardening video course! Follow the link below to start learning!
Thank you for all the good information in this series! My fall garden hasn’t been too successful yet, but it does improve a bit every year, so I’m happy to learn as many new ideas as possible!
Thank you so much for this information! I am about to order seeds for my fall/winter garden. Mache and Claytonia will definitely be something new but I’m looking forward to them as well as the sweet carrots!
Lots of good winter garden staples in your list. I also grow a large patch of spinach in late summer that I overwintered under a grow tunnel – it resurges with new growth in the very early spring and gives us some much needed fresh fare when not much else is available.
Great series! Coleman’s books sure inspired me to push the growing season here. We get a lot of production from our cold frames. But like you mention, one of my favorite winter crops (kale) is just to tall for my frames! I am able to get some at the baby stage by planting it a bit more thickly than usual.
Yes we learned right away that kale is too tall for the cold frames. So that is one of the crops we either grow in a hoop house or we just leave it our in the garden and cover it with fabric row cover!!